January 18, 2009
BECKHAM MEIDA GOES ONE ON ONE WITH VETERAN SPORTSCASTER FRED HICKMAN ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCE WORKING IN THE BROADCASTING INDUSTRY AND THE HISTORICAL PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Veteran sportscaster Fred Hickman joined ESPN in December 2004 as a SportsCenter anchor. He served as the host of several ESPN NBA studio shows including the Kia NBA Shootaround pre-game show Wednesday and Friday nights throughout the season. Hickman joined ESPN from the YES Network, a New York-area network featuring the New York Yankees and New Jersey Nets. He served as studio anchor and host for the Yankees and Nets pre- and post-game shows. Hickman became well known as a CNN Sports original, joining the network in 1980 and co-hosting SportsNight, the nightly rival to SportsCenter, for many years with Nick Charles. He left CNN for a time – serving as sports anchor for WDIV-TV in Detroit from 1984-86 – before returning to the same role. Hickman also anchored TBS’s Wednesday night NBA studio show (1995), Turner Sports' coverage of the Goodwill Games (1986, 1990 and 1994), and TNT's studio show for the 1984 and 1992 Winter Olympics. ickman began his career in 1977 as news anchor at WLWW-AM in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He then moved to Springfield, Ill., where he worked at WFBM-AM, and was sports director and anchor at WICS-TV before joining CNN. Hickman, who received CableACEs (Award for Cable Excellence) as the best sports host in 1993 and 1994, attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
BECKHAM MEDIA: What have you been up to?
FRED HICKMAN: Sheila, my wonderful wife of going on two years now, and our two children have relocated back to my adopted hometown of Atlanta and I am in the process of building the next stage of my life. I’ve been in the television business since 1978, and I want to share that wealth of experience in many ways. I love to speak…I want to write my first book…I love voice over work, and I am actively putting together the pieces for my own radio program fusing sports and current affairs. I am also preparing to launch FredHickman.net in the very near future. The sky is the limit, and I’m not sure how high the sky can be for us.
BECKHAM MEDIA: With over 30 years working in the broadcasting industry what lessons have you learned, what are you most proud of?
FRED HICKMAN: I learned at an early stage that THE most important thing to do in reporting is to ‘get it right’. I started off as a general assignment news reporter in my hometown, and quickly learned that the facts and ‘interpretation’ of the facts are two different things. So, get it right, communicate what you know to the viewer, and let the viewers judge for themselves. I suppose I’m most proud of the fact that I was there for so many momentous occasions covering everything from superbowls to the Olympics to important supreme court decisions to new year’s eve in times square at the turn of the millennium. I’ve also been around for the launch of several networks, including CNN and the YES Network.
BECKHAM MEDIA: The role of sports casting has changed significantly from when you first got into the business, especially for African Americans --what are your feelings about the opportunities and the industry?
FRED HICKMAN: I think those opportunities have expanded with the growth of all the regional sports networks. More volume should translate to more jobs while better broadcast journalism programs provide better training. And yet, it seems the greatest area of growth…on air…is for the analyst…the former athlete or coach lending his thoughts to the process. The roles of journalist and analyst are two distinctively different things, so I’m not seeing the growth of black sports television journalists…and especially producers and decision makers in network television be where I’d like it to be.
BECKHAM MEDIA: What are some of your upcoming goals? Will any of them include sports announcing in some way?
FRED HICKMAN: Announcing perhaps in some way. But, I truly want to branch out on my own at this stage in my life. It’s a little daunting, but I have some interesting stories to tell and insights to give. I mentioned the current projects to you earlier and, I’m not ruling anything out except for controlling my own destiny, with God’s help.
BECKHAM MEDIA: February 10, 2007-in Springfield, Illinois President- elect Barack Obama announced his candidacy to run for the Presidency--in your home town. What are your thoughts about the new African American President and the job at hand?
FRED HICKMAN: Ironic, isn’t it? It is also, as everyone now knows, Abraham Lincoln’s town…a big part of my personal history. But, what many don’t know is that the NAACP, which is celebrating it’s centennial this year, was born in part out the red summer of 1908…a bloody race riot which took place in Springfield. So, while the 44th President is making American history as an African American, there are many race relational strides left to make. But, the man inherits the hardest job in the history of America. The economy is shot…wars…the threat of terrorism. President Obama gets all the credit in the world for taking over a thankless task of historic proportions. He has had my family’s support and prayers from the beginning because they are the prayers of all Americans.
BECKHAM MEDIA: We have to turn to sports, what are your thoughts about Sports franchises demanding that cities build big arenas in order for them to stay in a city? Waste of tax payers money? It is reported that in some cases the average fan can't afford to go to an event.
FRED HICKMAN: That’s true. I personally (and foolishly) spent $1,000.00 for a court side seat to see the New Jersey Nets play a basketball game. That was in 2003! And, it was the Nets! I think we have so many more important ways to spend money…like, instead of displacing people in inner city’s, helping them buy or stay in their own homes. Most newer arenas are built in areas which displace middle and lower income folks who have no say in the matter at all. In fact, many of the buildings they are replacing are younger than me…and I’m not old. I think if you want to build something new, do it with your own money. The average fan has already been priced out, so let your luxury box people pay for it.
BECKHAM MEDIA: What are your most memorable events your covered as a sports anchor? What do you miss most about the job?
FRED HICKMAN: Most memorable. That’s a whole chapter in my book. Most were my firsts. The first Super Bowl…#20 in new Orleans when the Bears beat New England. The first world series…orioles over Phillies. Both Olympics were exciting…Lillehammer and Albertville, the winter games. I also recall covering Dr. J’s final all-star game fondly, and most of Michael Jordan’s appearances in the finals. There are so many more, including title fights in Vegas and Atlantic City with the likes of Hagler, Hearns, Tyson and Foreman. And, just meeting Muhammad Ali was a great honor. What I miss most about the job? The good seats.
BECKHAM MEDIA: You have had tremendous staying power in a very cut-throat industry, what do you attribute your success to?
FRED HICKMAN: How do I say this so it’s not misunderstood? I think it’s because I have never cared what people thought. I have had my fans and I have had my detractors inside the newsrooms. They know who they were but, more important, I knew who they were. All I have ever tried to do is the right thing the right way…sometimes despite some tragic personal circumstances few knew about, so I have no regrets nor any grudges. I attribute my success to God’s grace, hard work, attention to detail, and giving the viewer credit for having good sense.
BECKHAM MEDIA: Out of all the athletes that you have interviewed, who do you admire? What about today's generation of athletes how are they different?
FRED HICKMAN: Again, a very long list. Magic Johnson, not only as a player but as an entrepreneur. Ali because of his greatness. Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson for their pioneer sacrifices in baseball. I got to meet Leroy ‘Satchell’ Paige in the early days of my career and the latter days of his life…we talked, and I only wish I had recorded it. Jack Buck, greatest play by play man of all time, in my opinion. I think today’s athlete is more of a marketing item than an icon, and that’s okay for what it’s worth. But, there was something special about the days when you rooted for a guy or a team not because of the shoe or the commercial, but for the level of play. But, I am not hating. I want to see athletes make every nickel they get because most of the guys who came before them surely did not.
BECKHAM MEDIA: How do you accentuate the positive?
FRED HICKMAN: With my faith in God and the belief and support of my wife Sheila, who honored me in marriage a year and a half ago. We both know how rough life can get, but she has hung right in there with me. My former wife passed away after a long and brutal struggle with M.S. leaving me to raise my two kids on my own for several years. That while working and commuting and developing significant health issues of my own, which…thank God…have been resolved. I’ve known the bad, but I also know the good is always better, and right around the corner. I stand ready for the next shot of good.
Hickman's agent is Leigh Steinberg-- he is available for speaking opportunities that address the following topics:
**Motivation…how to make the best of a bad situation.
**Single parenthood…how to handle from a father’s point of view, and what NOT to do.
**Leadership…how to be first, and why it’s not always that easy.
**God’s grace…where he has brought me from and where I believe he’s taking me.
**Sports vs. life…parallel universes with striking comparisons.
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